Yokohama – The Utsunomiya Brex and Chiba Jets Funabashi are the last two teams standing in the top-tier of Japanese professional men’s basketball this year.
After Sunday night, the two popular teams are going to need all three games of the B. League Finals to determine which is left when the dust settles.
One day after suffering a crushing loss, the Brex rebounded with an 83-58 victory over Chiba in Game 2 to avoid being swept out of the finals, which is being played as a three-game series this year after previously being contested as a one-off game.
The teams will return to Yokohama Arena for the decisive third game on Tuesday. The tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Utsunomiya was overwhelmed by the Jets, who are looking for their first league title, in Saturday’s opener, an 85-65 loss.
On Sunday, however, the Tochigi Prefecture-based club turned the tables by showcasing their high-energy brand of basketball, grabbing 15 offensive boards and scoring 21 second-chance points.
“We were able to apply defensive pressure against Chiba, whereas Chiba had higher defensive intensity in yesterday’s game,” Utsunomiya head coach Ryuzo Anzai said after Game 2. “But that’s what we’ve taken pride in all year and what we wanted to do from the beginning. We ended up winning in rebounding and by scoring on our second chances today.”
The Brex’s .817 winning percentage was the highest in B1 in the regular season. The players, however, admitted they competed poorly in Game 1 and wanted to compete with pride as the Eastern Conference champions in Game 2.
“We were determined to win the game today,” said veteran guard Hironori Watanabe, who was part of the Utsunomiya team that won the inaugural B. League title in the 2016-17 season. “We couldn’t have lost two games in a row before this many fans who came to cheer on us. And that strong determination led us to performing better both offensively and defensively.”
Chiba star point guard Yuki Togashi lamented his team’s performance afterward.
“I think that rather than Xs and Os, the difference between their mentality and ours was the difference in the game,” said the 27-year-old, who scored nine points in Game 2. “We have one more chance and want to be ready to battle mentally.”
Ryan Rossiter, one of Utsunomiya’s emotional leaders, stressed after Game 1 that his team would need to show who it was by playing with confidence.
The Brex performed exactly that way on Sunday, led by Rossiter, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“We wanted to play Brex basketball,” said Rossiter, who has been with the club since 2013 and obtained Japanese citizenship during last season. “Mainly, we just wanted to remember who we were and play with the confidence and the swagger that we played with all season. We needed to get that back and today we did.”
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